From Andrew Gelman:
The Monkey Cage: Income tax burden != tax burden: Greg Mankiw quotes a Tax Foundation report saying:
IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act. Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. [italics added]
It’s an interesting question what to make of this sort of statistic: the income distribution is more skewed than it used to be, so there are some super-rich people paying a lot of taxes. But what I wanted to focus on here was the shift from “income taxes” to “the tax burden.” This could be misleading.
Yep. It is.